One of the language tests accepted by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is the IELTS. The IELTS or International English Language Testing System measures English proficiency.
The IELTS tests all four language skills, giving those who require it a picture of a candidate’s overall English language ability.
The test consists of two parts. The first part of the IELTS is the written part, consisting of the listening, reading, and writing tests.
The second part is the speaking test. The IELTS Speaking test is taken separately. Test takers may have to take their speaking tests at a different venue. In most cases, this part of the test is scheduled on a different day.
Despite being a whole separate part of the IELTS, the IELTS Speaking test is the shortest.
If you want to know more about the IELTS Speaking test and how you may be able to get your desired score, this article is for you.
The Format And Parts Of The IELTS Speaking Test
The IELTS Speaking test takes roughly 12 to 14 minutes. Compared to the first three sub-tests of the IELTS exam, the speaking test is the shortest.
Much of the test is conducted in an interview-like format. Hence, an examiner will ask questions to which you need to respond. This is the format for the first and last part of the exam. The second part has a different format.
The IELTS speaking test consists of three parts.
Part one is the “getting-to-know-you” part of the speaking test. It is often in this part of the test where questions about you will be asked.
Also, you can expect questions about certain areas of interest like your favourite food, whether or not you travel, and whether or not you read or watch the news. This part is conducted like an interview so you answer as an examiner asks you questions.
This second part of the speaking test takes on a different format from the first. In part two, you will be given a card containing a topic. You will also be given 60 seconds to prepare a response. After this, you will have two minutes to deliver your response.
At the end of two minutes, the examiner might allow you to continue speaking. In some cases, examiners can inform you that the time is up.
The last part of the speaking test has a similar format to the first part. The topics for part three may or may not be related to the topic in part two.
Usually, the questions for part three are more abstract. The nature of the questions makes part three different from the first part.
How Are Speaking Tests Marked?
Unlike the reading and listening parts of the test, the speaking test is not marked based on a raw score. Instead, examiners rate your responses using a set of descriptors. You are given a band score for each characteristic your response meets.
These band scores are given for four areas. The average total becomes your speaking test score.
The four areas are:
Fluency And Coherence
Fluency refers to your ability to speak and respond to questions. For this area, examiners look for signs of difficulty or effort. Examples of these include pauses and “intrusive fillers” such as “uhhh” or “uhm” – utterances best avoided for a more desirable score.
Coherence is how you join ideas in your response. In other words, it is how you establish connections between your ideas in your responses. Coherence also refers to your ability to transition from one idea to a different one.
Lexical range is vocabulary. It does not only refer to your use of words. It also refers to how well you can accurately use figures of speech, collocations, and colloquialisms. Lexical range is also demonstrated by being able to use synonyms and alternative word forms.
Grammar Range And Accuracy
Grammar range is shown by the range of sentence structures you use throughout your responses. Examiners check your use of different simple, compound, and complex sentence structures.
Grammar accuracy refers to the consistency of correct sentences.
This is also an essential area of assessment for IELTS speaking examiners. Pronunciation is how clearly you say words. Examiners also pay attention to other features of spoken English like where you put stresses and your intonation.
Speaking Score = Average Of The Four Areas
Each of the four areas mentioned is given a score. The average score would be your IELTS speaking score.
For example, if the scores are:
Fluency and coherence: 6.0
Lexical resource: 5.5
Grammar range and accuracy: 5.5
The score would be computed:
6 + 5.5 + 5.5 + 7.0 = 24
24/4 = 6.0
6.0 would be the speaking score.
How To Prepare For The IELTS Speaking Test
Here are some pointers that can help you prepare for your IELTS speaking test.
Unlike listening, reading, and writing, speaking is a language skill that can only get better with practice. Not just studying. Hence, you may want to speak to as many English speakers as possible as you prepare for the IELTS.
Online, you can find IELTS speaking test sets. You can use these and have another person simulate the test with you. This can help you become more familiar with the IELTS speaking test’s format. Also, it is an opportunity to practice speaking.
Work On Extending Your Answers
Some questions in the IELTS Speaking test may be easy to respond to at length. This is the case with “why” questions.
Sometimes, questions may either be close-ended (i.e. yes or no). There may also be questions that could be answered with just one word or phrase in real life (e.g. What is your name? Where are you from? What is your favourite movie?).
To prepare for these situations, you can develop methods or sequences of making your answers lengthier. You may be able to try a couple of methods:
Answering The Invisible “Why”
One of the ways you could do this is by answering “the invisible why”.
Do you like chocolate?
In the IELTS, giving a simple yes or no may answer the question. However, it may not suffice to get you your desired score, especially if done throughout the speaking test.
To make your answer longer, you could try responding with either “yes” or “no”, then adding why you like or dislike chocolate.
Hence, your answer can appear this way:
No, I dislike chocolate because it is loaded with sugar and caffeine. I do not react well with these two substances.”
This can help you in many parts of the speaking test like part three.
To apply this, you simply respond, give a reason for your opinion, and an example.
For instance, you may be able to respond to the question:
“What do you think will happen if people are not vaccinated in the future?”
With something akin to:
“I think more people will fall ill if that happens. This is because vaccines have been proven to equip the immune systems of people to prevent infections from many pathogens. For instance, prior to the 1950s, polio was prevalent across the globe. Following its invention in 1954, it has been widely administered, decreasing the incidence of polio for generations thereafter.”
You will notice the response contains the answer to the question, a reason, and an example.
If coming up with an example seems difficult, you could give another reason instead to justify your response even more.
Using this approach, your answer to the same question earlier might look like this:
“I think more people will fall ill if that happens. This is because vaccines have been proven to equip the immune systems of people to prevent infections from many pathogens. FURTHERMORE, the resulting minority who have developed immunity will not be enough to generate herd immunity for a population. This means that the number of sick people would still increase, outnumbering healthy individuals.”
This time, instead of an example, there is another reason to back up the response.
Aim For Neutral Pronunciation
There seems to be a misconception that test-takers should try to sound more “North American” or “British” to do well in the test.
This might not be the case. In fact, a close inspection of the band descriptors for pronunciation would prove that sounding “native” is not a requirement (though desirable).
These are the descriptions for bands 6.0 to 9.0 in pronunciation. Based on the descriptors, speech only needs to be “understandable” throughout. Hence, you do not need to worry too much if you do not sound “American” or “British”. Your words just need to be clear.
As you practice, you may need feedback from someone you know. You can also enlist the services of a tutor. He or she may be able to provide feedback on sounds or words you regularly have a tough time pronouncing.
Practice Speaking By Listening
This might seem like an odd suggestion. Nevertheless, listening to how native speakers talk could show you what proper delivery looks like.
To see examples of English used in various contexts, you can watch Youtube videos or watch movies or programs in English. These would expose you to the importance of stressing certain syllables and speaking in varying intonations.
As you watch (listen) programs in English, you get to work on vocabulary by taking note of unfamiliar words and looking up their meanings. In addition, grammar can also improve as you emulate what you have watched.
Instead Of Using Fillers, Try Practicing “Time-Buying” Phrases
A common area of difficulty among test-takers is not using fillers when they are stumped.
While having an answer to every question is ideal, it is not realistic. To prepare for such a situation, you may want to get in the habit of using “time-buying phrases” instead.
These are phrases that give you some time to think of a response if you lack an answer. Some examples of these phrases are:
- “That’s a good question.”
- “That is an interesting question.”
- “Let me see.”
Also, you can try paraphrasing the question. Not only can it buy you a few seconds. It might also be a clever way to show your lexical range.
For example, if you were asked,
“Why has junk food consumption become so prevalent these days?”
You may begin with:
I’m sorry. Do you mean to ask why more people eat junk food nowadays?”
Again, the technique might help you think and show your lexical range at the same time.
The IELTS Speaking test is the last part of the IELTS exam. This part of the test assesses your ability to use English verbally.
To speak English well consists of being able to:
- Speak with minimal observable effort
- Pronounce words clearly (not necessarily like a native speaker”)
- Communicate a clear message with the right words and expressions
- Communicate observing the rules of English grammar
The tips mentioned in this article can point you in the direction of how to do these four things.
While this article contained a list of five tips and tricks, arguably the most important is this- practice.
Good luck with your IELTS Speaking Test!